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INDUSTRY VOICES

  • Andrea Fielding

Don’t refresh your employer brand amidst the Great Reshuffle.

Get strategic in celebrating all you already are.

The following article is from Sophie Haynes, Senior Global Employer Brand Manager at Unilever, who will be co-presenting at World Employer Branding Day 12-14 October 2022 in Lisbon with Unilever's Global Employer Brand Director, Louise Nass.


As a disclaimer, I’ll start with the caveat that I am a total employer brand nerd! It is never lost on me how fortunate I am; Unilever is a sweet spot for employer brand and my team have scope to explore and amplify impact across the business. Until recently, many have undervalued or overlooked employer brand completely. The Great Reshuffle has changed all that…


Candidates are becoming more confident in telling us what they want and organisations are having to tune into this demand more and more. Creating a strong Employee Value Proposition (EVP) might sound like a huge, one-off project, but I see it more as a continuous, backed-by-data work-in-progress, turning up new opportunities every day. While always evolving, your employer brand should be rooted in a consistent EVP which should shine through in how your company navigates and responds to challenges.


Don’t rush to refresh your EVP!

Let me start by saying if you don’t already have a clearly outlined EVP, then now is absolutely the time to develop one. It explains who you are as an employer and ensures you have access to the right talent for your organisation to thrive. But I have some controversial advice…


So often we become fixated on the idea of refreshing our employer brand when we don’t necessarily need to – especially in times like these where we see flux in the talent landscape.


It’s important to recognise that your EVP isn’t benefits or flexible working; for candidates, these are now a given. It’s the culture behind your social content. It’s who you are and what you stand for.

For most businesses, this doesn’t tend to change much over time. So why knock everything down and start from scratch? Consumer brands don’t suddenly change their branding in response to shifts in the landscape. They listen and, where necessary, adapt their existing offering to ensure they are serving evolving consumer needs. This can be a great source of inspiration in terms of how we think about employer brand…


Treat your employer brand like any other part of your business

The goal is not to create content that resonates with everyone; we’re trying to resonate with the right people. Everything we create has to be authentic and say, ‘This is who we are. This is what we are about. Are we a good fit for you? Are you a good fit for us?’. Once you know the skills and people you need to achieve everything you have planned, it’s easy to find out where they are and what matters most to them. Tools like Talent Insights allow us to drill down and find out what sectors and locations we should be targeting. As of right now, we have more than 17m LinkedIn followers, a number that seems to have exploded during the pandemic. This is great, but we always balance our growth ambitions with strategy, ensuring we’re engaging the people who may have a real future with Unilever.


A common pitfall is expecting to attract a top-notch pipeline overnight. Imagine approaching your talent pipeline like forecasting in supply chain; considering the products you need (in this case, skills and people), the demand (how much you need in the next 12-18 months), and planning to ensure you can meet it. This unlocks a better experience for both sides. Companies don’t order parts one week before producing a product; why not apply the same principles to hiring? Understand who you need, when, and how an experience in your company could align with what matters to them.


The rising demand for hybrid working

While your DNA might stay the same, you should still be looking to share your response to talent trends, hybrid working for example, in the stories you tell. I love that in Unilever, we often have brilliantly distinctive, pioneering offerings for our employees. Our newly launched employment model U-Work has redefined our employer/employee contract, giving people the chance to design work patterns that work for them – even beyond hybrid working. By breaking jobs down into tasks and projects, employees can live a freelance lifestyle, taking sabbaticals, caring for family, exploring new passions and spending time on the things that really matter to them.


It seems we were fortunate to be where we were with U-Work when it came to navigating the transition to remote working, but this decision was based on data predating the pandemic, looking at what was most likely to suit, sustain and inspire our people in light of the trends already happening. We knew that what we call the ‘future of work’ was coming. We knew that an ageing population meant that people were going to be seeking alternatives to the traditional work contract. We knew that we would have to be more authentic and vigilant than ever in providing opportunities for people from a diverse range of backgrounds. This is a great example of listening to talent needs and responding with an innovative ‘offering’. Flexible working on its own is not our EVP, but when talent around the world is asking for more flexibility in how they live, learn and work, telling real people stories through U-Work can be a unique and authentic initiative to share. This type of content brings our employer brand to life.


Let your employees tell their own stories…

A real pleasure in my role is connecting with employees who are passionate advocates of their experiences in Unilever. Whilst these often translate as brilliant stories to tell, they’re most impactful when the individual shares it in their own voice.


I love sharing employee stories from every corner of the business, including powerful thought leadership pieces from the executive leadership team.


To attract the individuals we need to help guide us through some of the world’s biggest challenges: things like climate action, defending human rights, diversity and inclusion and global living standards, we need to tap into the things our ideal candidates really care about and elevate them authentically in the stories we share.

Employee advocacy also gives you the chance to support employees in building their own personal brand through social content.


Keep listening to talent, stay true to your EVP

As the Great Reshuffle continues to empower people in knowing they have choice, employer brand is only going to increase in significance. To stand out and connect with the right people, you’ll need a strong EVP illustrated with consistent and authentic examples. Once you’ve got a solid foundation, you can tap into what matters most to people and start shaping the articulation of your employer brand in a targeted way.


The best results come not from ‘refreshing’ your EVP, but from making sure your internal voice is closely aligned with a tight strategy, data, goals, key leaders across the business, and your audience.

The art lies in identifying where the patterns are and joining the dots.


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*Reproduced with permission